Time flies. Since I left San Francisco, I’ve backpacked around and lived in Chicago, Austin, Denver and now Oahu, an island in Hawaii known as “The Gathering Place”. It has officially been 6+ weeks since I arrived in paradise, which is right around the time I like to share my first impressions. Before I landed, I daydreamed about what life would be like here. I’ve been shocked by a few things and my other impressions have been right on point with my expectations. Like everywhere I’ve lived thus far, I’ve found pros and cons and I’ve shared both, because I keep it real! While I will share some cons I have to say Oahu is filled with mostly pros 🙂
Growing up I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Hawaii a few times (Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island). Each time I came I spent time with friends and family exploring the islands from the eyes of a tourist staying in a hotel. It’s been eye-opening to live here and see the local way of life versus what hotels tend to push and sell you on. I’m getting the local’s perspective into the day to day and it’s been fascinating to not only see what there is to do but also get a glimpse into what life is really like on Oahu. So here it is, my list of first impressions since arriving! Please note it’s in a completely random order because I live on an island and don’t have time to organize it any further.
First Impressions: What Life Is Like On Oahu
- The People: Are ridiculously friendly here. Since they live on arguably one of the prettiest islands in the world, it makes sense they are so nice because they live a happy life. They say hello to you on the streets and smile. People here are also very transient, they come from everywhere (it seems like primarily Japan, Australia and the mainland) to live and visit temporarily. It’s also a military base, which by its nature, has large groups moving in and out.
- The Hawaiian Language: One tricky part about moving here for me has been trying to understand and speak the Hawaiian language. Every street name, city, beach, hike, etc. sounded similar when I arrived. I wasn’t able to differentiate between Kailua, Kahala, Kamala, etc. I’m constantly mispronouncing everything but I am now at least starting to pick up on the sounds. Pidgin seems to be easier to pick up (which is not The Hawaiian Language or an English dialect, but a separate language altogether spoken in Hawai’i). I’ve learned via my roommate, a Hawaiian local, that if you can pronounce the King and Queen’s names as well as the state fish without fumbling, then you can potentially pass as a local. I’m still trying to get these, I’m not close 🙂 Give these a try and google the correct pronunciation:
- King Kamehameha
- Queen Liliʻuokalani
- Humuhumunukunukuapua’a [State Fish]
- Tourism: This is the most touristy place I’ve ever lived. For a little island, Oahu feels extremely populated. Most people that live in Hawai’i live on Oahu and around Honolulu. Or I mean Los Angeles? My very first impression when I arrived was how similar HNL felt to LA. Mainly because you really need a car to live here, the traffic can be pretty bad, and the weather is generally nice year round. Tourists (and I’ll throw myself into this category) seem to be everywhere! There don’t SEEM to be many local hang outs that tourists don’t find out about. While they mainly swarm Waikiki, Hawai’i’s Time Square, they also flood the beaches, hiking trails, and quaint restaurants and shops all around the island. I know I’ve been spending more time in the “must see” locations, and some of those I want to go back to again and again because of how amazing they are. I could see how being surrounded by tourists day in and day out could potentially become annoying. When I lived in San Francisco, I purposely avoided Fisherman’s Wharf, along with every other local. Sometimes it feels like Oahu is made up of the Wharf on a larger scale.
- Happy People, Happy Place: This is a happy place and I have proof. There are loads of brides and grooms and honeymooners that fill the island. Engagement photos are taken left and right with the most epic of backdrops. Love flows in and out and through the warm air. There are millions of photos taking over Instagram with unbelievable sunrises, sunsets, mountains, beaches, and flora showing just how colorful and bright Hawai’i is. See, happiness:
- Island Bugs: There are CREATURES EVERYWHERE. On the one hand, these creature noises (think ocean waves mixed with screaming cockroaches) makes me remember I am living somewhere tropical and I smile. On the other hand, I’m scared to pieces that there are bugs crawling all over me in the middle of the night, which could be unreasonable but I do have a phobia. This certainly isn’t unique to Oahu, creatures exist in warm places and most islands, and they have definitely been something I’ve noticed here and a topic of conversation. Recently, I went to yoga on the beach, and a girl I was with got stung by a bee, the conversation turned into all kinds of bugs in Hawai’i and how my friend killed this red centipede and that it certainly hasn’t been the first one she’s murdered while living here. Recently my roommate told me about a “B52”, which is apparently a flying cockroach that can and will attack you. Oh and they’re common here. So, there’s that (terrifying)!?!?! But every day I wake up and I hear a happy bird chirping, I feel the island winds and I see palm trees swaying. So there’s also that!
- The Fear: I’ve learned there’s a lot people can be fearful of on the island, including but not limited to those aforementioned B52’s, shark attacks, heights, high tides, and terrifying steep hikes [for example, the Stairway to Heaven]. Because locals see a lot of this day in day out on local news I can see how they could easily become afraid and of course tourists are naive.
- An Adventurers Dream: Similar to feeling like I couldn’t accomplish everything there was to do in Colorado, I don’t think I will be able to keep up with all the adventures Hawaii has to offer! Hawaii is an adventurers dream, especially the water sport type! You can surf, paddle board, kiteboard, snorkel, kayak, canoe, scuba, swim with sharks, swim under a waterfall, body surf, jet ski, hydroplane, zip line, mountain bike, hike….well seriously you name it, Hawaii has it.
- Public Transit: Something you may not pick up as a tourist but figure out right away as a local is how lame TheBus (or “Da Bus”) is. Affordable? Yes! ($2.50 one way). Chronically late and disappointing? Also, yes! When I arrived, most people told me don’t even bother with it. The few times I attempted to take it, the app kept refreshing only to tell me it was continuously delayed. From there on out I have rented a car. As you know from my previous posts, I’m a HUGE fan of public transit so this is a con in my book that The Bus (the only form of public transit on Oahu) isn’t highly regarded. It is a bummer because in order to make the most out of the life here, you really need a car.
- Island Fever: Does it exist? How long does one have to be on an island before they start to feel it come on? I know that it varies by individual but I have a hunch you could feel it more on the other islands which are less populated. That being said, whenever I pull up Google Maps and zoom out, I feel very far from reality! My tiny blue GPS dot takes OVER Oahu!
- Outdoor/Indoor Living: Ah, island living. I’ve seen this on HGTV but I’ve never experienced it. Each home I’ve visited thus far, I’ve noticed a huge commonality: people live outside and inside. I obviously haven’t lived too many warm places because typically I’ve mostly lived in homes set up for both summer and winter. On Oahu, washers and dryers are outside, lanais wrap around apartments and homes, and you find they flow from being inside to outside and then back inside. The garage door entrance to the house I’m living in opens up to the outside! It gives a breezy, one with nature, free flowing vibe, I really like the homes here.
- Island Time: I haven’t been here long and I’ve already struggled with keeping up with work and to do’s. I don’t understand how people can be productive when you can easily become distracted by the island’s adventures and relaxing beaches. I find I’m much more productive when it’s winter outside and I’m forced to be inside on my laptop. Living on an island has allowed me to slow down and go with the flow, which is a really nice change of pace.
- The Food: Is SO good. I’ve mainly been focusing my time on desserts like malasadas, cheesecake, shave ice and mochi ice cream but I’ve also enjoyed seafood like shrimp, salmon, and ahi poke. Yummy all around. Pictures say more than words on this topic:
- Homeless: The homeless population in Hawaii is growing and according to NBC News in Nov 2015, it is claimed to have the highest homeless population in the nation per capita. This has been evident since I’ve arrived. Almost all around the island, you will see make-shift tents and homeless people walking around trying to find food or shelter for the night. According to Hawaii Business, most of the homeless are actually “mainland snowbirds”. Fortunately, in reference to this Hawaii Business article, “the City and County of Honolulu is investing $7 million in a program called Housing First, considered a national best practice that gets people off the street faster.” I’m happy this program is in place to help!
- Pricing: The pricing here seems weird, I haven’t found a rhythm to it. Overall, it is cheaper than I expected but definitely more expensive than most places around the U.S. Gas is less than I thought it would be (right around $2.35) but you can forget about drinking milk in the morning or eating cereal – milk here costs a whopping $9 per gallon!! Thanks, but orange juice will do just fine. The rent in Waikiki is not awful, you can find a studio in a safe area for just around $1k/month. That wouldn’t happen in San Francisco so I consider it a win! That being said, jobs here don’t pay as well as the mainland so the COL is certainly a struggle.
- Local Radio Stations: I would be remiss if I did not share this last one with you on my list. Since I’ve been renting a car since moving here, I’ve had the opportunity to listen in on the local radio stations, and they are AMAZING. I’ll just say it again: amazing. At home, I’ll plug in my iPhone and jam to my own tunes, but the local stations here are so good I don’t want to. Filled with island jams and songs you forgot about (but you know EVERY word to) fill every station. They are simply the best. My favorites: 94.7 and 102.7 (“Da Bomb” Radio). Next time you’re in Hawaii, I highly recommend jamming out when you road trip around the island.
And there you have it! My First Impressions of Life on Oahu. I will continue to share my thoughts on things to do, eat and see.
Mahalo for reading!
Please add comments: Have you lived on Oahu or do you currently? What were your first impressions when you got here? What are they now? Share in the comments, would love to hear from you!